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Virtual Reality (VR) Coming to Your Life Sonner than You Think!

Virtual Reality, or “VR” for short, is coming on fast. I’ve been engaged in watching it for many years, and in the format of head mounted displays “HMDs,” I first experienced one about 1996, where the world around me was filled with flying dragons and you had to spot and shoot them before they got to you. Cartoonish by today’s standards, but I got the experience of wearing it and considering the usefulness and applications to come.

In March, Facebook bought a successful Kickstarter project, Oculus Rift for $2B. The foundation of VR has been the simulation and gaming industry, with applications in the engineering the medical field.

So why is Facebook interested in a gaming device? From Dice:

“In the longer term, Facebook could attempt to build a virtual reality, one in which users interact with each others’ avatars amidst a digital landscape, rather than via a newsfeed or postings. In theory, that sort of simulacrum presents some prime opportunities for advertising: imagine all the digital billboards and wall-ads that Facebook could sprinkle around a virtual city.”

Think Star Trek Holodeck, minus the tactile input of feel. Now consider the applications that may flow from that, when a very capable HMD is in the sub $300 range.

Here’s the conditions to look forward to: If you think it’s rude now for a group of people in one place to all be nose first in their smartphones, get ready to walk into Starbucks and see 5-6 people at the bigger common table, laptops open and on, and they all are interacting in a virtual world, while sitting next to each other.

There will be exciting uses, like going up the Eiffel Tower with friends, when you all aren’t in the same place, and certainly can’t afford the time or have the money to go there…or NASCAR races, or hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.

As with any technology, there will be appropriate and effective uses, and then someone will turn it into an obsession and amplify the angst we have over being present and not being there when we are physically with others right next to us.

You heard it here. It’s going to be part of our worlds. It’s been driven by the gaming community and then other industries will piggy back on what solutions were put in place. As a side note: The graphics card market, that is an essential piece of the puzzle, also matured as a demand from the gaming community, to get closer to virtual environments being very lifelike in look and experience. Expect the business world the pick up the banner and apply it to meetings, or distance learning, or project construction reports, with this being a path to further develop augmented reality, too.

Friday Freebies: Comodo IceDragon

For a while now, I bave been using the FireFox based Comodo IceDragon for my browswer. I have long since left Internet Explorer behind, only using it when it was the only option for some things such as updates from Microsoft, and have long been a fan of FireFox from the folks at Mozilla.

Long before the added functionality of plugins arrived in the IE world, I had many, many useful plugins operating in FireFox.

Then I came across IceDragon about a year ago on the Comodo site Free Products page. I had been using their Dragon browser for a bit, which is based on Google Chome, and had built it up for some replacement functionality in the plugin world, but I wanted a FireFox version and they read my mind. So here I am.

Advantages of the IceDragon browser of “straight stick” Firefox:

1 – On the right end of the website address bar, where is a stylized blue “W.” That button is a tool the, when clicked, scans the currently selected webpage for infections. Think of it like a virus scanner, not for your comp[uter, but the site are looking at.


Click images for larger version

Why is this important these days? Beacuse the bad guys are hacking into and infecting legitmate websites. The result is you get intrusions into your computer, not by clicking the obviously hacking into freinds Yahoo email account sending out spam viruses, but without your inattention to detail for a mere moment.

2 – The browser has beefed up security checks, and will stop and ask you if you really want to go to a webpage that has indications of being a malicious site, or, in the case a site’s shopping cart that had their security layer (the SSL function, that ensures your credit card info is encrypted before it leaves your end of the transaction to purchase on the net) expire, which then makes passing your info a risky thing.

I have seen it also ask me if I wanted to continue, because the web address had more than some acceptable numbe or dedirect command (meaning the webiste keeps forwarding you to anothe domain/server for the content, but in this case, the redirects continued to bounce my request to other places). IN this case, it is a site I go to regulalry, and is a big name, but obvioulsy the bad guys use mulitlpe redirects to cover thier tracks in an effort to hide what they are up to, and IceDragon saw a similar pattern and asked me. I tried it in the current version of FireFox, out of curiousity, and it took me right to the sight. Good real time comaparison.

But, they you have your Friday Freebie courtesy of The Computer Whisperer!

Time to rethink the dpi for your main web and mobile site images

Just bumped across a review on the new iPads and two sentences caught my eye. The reviewer mentioned surfing to Zillow, the site that lists houses for sale. He commented on how the pictures looked all pixelated.

That’s important, and it’s also a sesimic change in the digital world of our websites and images on the mobile devices viewed by our clients. In “the good old days,” the way to keep your web pages loading fast, and not bust through your storage and bandwidth limits of your hosting provider, the best bet was to “downsize” the images to be 100dpi (dots per inch) down to no less than 72dpi.

In a world where the masses of display devices could not get above 75dpi, it was a great way to help yourself in the ways mentioned above. If you had been loading those 5 mega pixel pictures from your digital camera, and then wondered why your web pages took so very, very long to display, and you figured it out, you know what I’m talking about.

So….what’s the point? The new Retina displays for the iPad3 and iPhone 5 devices leapt forward to now display 286dpi. Your 100dpi pictures, all slim and trim electronically images UP TO NOW now look all pixelated.

Time to consider just how smooth and life like you need your site images need to be for the growing market of Apple product users.

If you don’t consider this an issue, and think you can just leave those users behind, you need to understand much of what is before you in the non-Apple/Mac world came to be as a result of everyone trying to copycat the innovations coming out of Apple. USB came from Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), which also gave us back all sorts of things attached outside the computer (like Macs were n the early days), after the PC people were trying to put everything inside the box. Windows…bless Bill Gates and his merry band of workers, was a twinkle in Bill’s eye because Steve and Steve (and realistically, Mike) put out a ground breaking new interface to the computer, and once seen, Microsoft then began to work on it.

Displays, the actual hardware, now will begin to see an evolution very soon, as the consumer market will begin to want it, but without the price tag, and the electronic manufacturers will position their products to meet the demand, and therefore, your site better be up to speed in the near future.

If those old images aren’t on file, in their original, high quality format, consider replacing them, or reworking the sites to remove them from their digital surrounding.

Next: No more low resolution setting on your cameras. Get the high quality version (at the minimum to allow you to extract a nice 300dpi version), and store them for the future.

Update 11/10/12: Google and Samsung are now using 300dpi (or “ppi” pixels per inch) displays on their new tablets. One more “call to action” to get into all your website graphics and consider “upgrading” the dpi of not only your photos, but any artwork/logo you scaled down for fast loading web pages! End of update, now returning to your original text.

The quick thinkers, who rely on high quality impression for their business would be well advised to make a review of their sites a top priority in the near term.

Words to the wise…prepare for the shifts in technology, or at least, in this case, start paddling now to catch the wave.

Social Media: The Internet is Forever……And Employers are using it more and more

The checking for the boundaries of youth have seen “better days.”

In an age where popularity and one-upsmanship carries significant amounts of social capital by “performing in/on social media, the trend is for not the only the Government to monitor you, with your own permission, if they choose, but, the ones you can’t claim 1st Amendment rights cases against so easily: Employers.

In this article from England from the regarding trends in the market, the move afoot is for employers, not just to check you out for hiring (already problematic enough when you have posted those partying hardy pictures and videos), but to keep tabs on what you’re saying…and it could not even be about them:

Many employers already monitor their workers’ Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages – but the practice is set to increase, a new report has revealed.

A new report by data analysts Gartner has claimed that by the year 2015, 60 per cent of employers will monitor social media pages of their employees.

The ‘Big Brother’ monitoring will be driven by security worries about employees leaking information or talking negatively about their workplace.
[…]

Well some us “seasoned” people have escaped the tomfoolery of youth without such consequences, be sure to pass some wisdom along to those you mentor or are the parents of, and hopefully, they will take such information under advisement and not press the “Update Status” button as fast, or as frequently as they may have planned to…

Understanding Your Digital Landscape Seminar 11/16/2010

From the flyer, regarding the Seminar I’ll be conducting to help business owners, who are not technically enabled, to better understand what makes their business function:

Understanding the Digital Landscape

What is it?
How do you find it?
How do you use it effectively?

Computers save us time in everything from information storage and retrieval, calculation, graphic design, and report preparation. E-commerce allows our websites to keep our businesses running 24/7.

A failure at any point, from our office records to our online presence, can quickly snowball into a technological disaster, especially for a small business that doesn’t have an IT (information technology) staff in-house.

Seminar leader Curt Middlebrook, The Computer Whisperer, provides insights into the equipment, computer programs, and office and internet support services out there, and the people who provide them. You’ll learn how to maximize your online efficiency, and how to track the success of your online marketing.
This is a Lunch & Learn program, part of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce Success in Business Series. Your registration includes detailed information for evaluating every aspect of your company’s digital landscape, as well as a light lunch.

When : Tuesday, November 16; 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where : Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, Room 202

Cost : $19.95 Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber Members
$24.95 Non-members

Call Chamber Manager Larry Steinlauf at 544-4777 to register.
You must be registered to attend.

Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT Fund Drive 2010

Technology moves ahead in unpredictable ways, sometimes.

History lesson below, for the interested. For those who are ready and need to donate and move on: Click here.

If you’re looking to help an old Sailor out, then “push” the button for Navy. Know this: It all goes into the same pot, but, the need to poke at our fellow military members doesn’t go away easily, so…resist the urge to help any service team other than Navy…..

Now to some background:

Barely 5 years ago, a “MilBlogger,” and Army Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss, ended up on the wrong end of an IED when on patrol in Iraq and subsequently in Walter Reed Medical Center. Having been a fairly active poster, when a Soldier’s Angels representative asked if he needed anything, he asked for a laptop so he could blog from the hospital, since he’d be there a while. They bought one off of eBay.

He had injuries to both arms, leaving him with one in a cast, and the other in a halo. Typing, as you may surmise, was pretty tough. He posted indicating he sure could use some help…maybe so he could talk to his computer.

Some people helped him out getting Dragon Naturally Speaking. As a result, Chuck’s Blog came back to life.

As a result of that, the idea that this mashup of existing tech would be able to help others. The conception of the idea came from one of Chuck’s reader’s, Beth (FuzzyBear Lioness in the comments section), who thought if it worked for Chuck, who else might it help?

So, the first use of the Project’s Name happened 8/18/2005.

Now we are but 5 years and a few months later, over $600K collected, about 50 bloggers on the teams, and begging for air time on the big websites (and getting some!), with close to 6000 laptops delivered. They are new. They are good ones, and they are provided at the Major military medical facilities, and, they can be requested, if someone has slipped by the system unnoticed.

I believe it was last year, they added the purchasing and providing of Nintendo Wiis, which has helped with physcial therapy for the injured warriors. GPS units are now also provided to those who are getting out and about, to compensate for the short term memory loss issues as a result of TBI and severe PTSD injuries.

The “gateway” to the many pages of information and the project blog is here.

One particularly descriptive post titled “Laptops Save Lives?!” has the words of the real “end users” of the charity of the donors of this work. It may be from 2007, but the truth is right there. This is a great project, which really “gives back” to those who entered the services and gave much of themselves.

Besides just the close to the problem connection, from a problem solving standpoint, I see this as a job training program for the majority of these wounded troops, as they will be medically retired/discharged. If they have used a computer to get and stay in contact with their families, friends and “Battle Buddies,” they sure will be able to draft up a business letter, surf the net to do research and learn to crunch numbers with Excel for the employer who wants a person who looks forward into life and works to achieve their potential.

I could go on for many pages, having personally met Chuck and Beth, and Patti, the Founder of Soldier’s Angels via these campaigns over the 5 years. The stories are real, the ideas amazing, and the unselfish acts to take an idea from one person to many is a lesson in building relationships.

Once more: Donate here to Team Navy!

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Isn’t it Ironic? Mac OS X Virus arrives

A sesimic shift in the PC word has just happened: A Mac OS X virus is here, coming in the form of a Java script off of social media.

The irony? as I was removing a virus off a “real” PC this morning, my client indicated they might buy a Mac, so they wouldn’t viruses. I began with a little business analogy: One day, it will happen. When? When the Macs in the market reach some magical %, the “bad guys” will then take the time to study the Mac OS in detail, to try and exploit it. I also went on to discuss how a business decision, when done right, always looks for the most impact, for the least expenditure of resources. And, as of that moment, it must haven’t arrived (little did I know)…yet. I potulated, that when it did, it would be like a very big tidal wave, particulalry accentuated by the fact that it’s “well known” Macs are invulnerable from attack. Yeah, right.

So any how, for you MacoPhiles…gird your loins, the attainment of 20% of the PC market by Macs announced by Steve Jobs a few days ago, has had an impact on your bulletproofness. Be on your toes, and hope the good guys have anti-virus software ready for you, really, really soon.

Here’s the warning from the articles at ARSTechnica:

A new trojan horse has cropped up that affects Mac OS X (and Windows as well), primarily disguised as a video flitting around social networking sites. When users click an infected link, a Java applet is launched that downloads multiple files, including an installer that runs automatically without users’ knowledge.

While between other appointments this after noon, I saw the article (linked above) and I knew the time has come.

Note, too, you Windows based PC users, you’re a casualty of this new attack, too.

Be on the look out for any video on the social media sites….all of you computer users.

I’ll bring this history, too, because there have been Mac based viruses before. In early 1988, I contracted the “Scores” virus on my Mac II from a download off of GEnie.

That was bad news. The good news is the PC market exploded on cheap Intel based PCs and the bad guys went after them. That has left the Mac world as the untouchables for all these years…until now.

We Infect Our Computers Ourselves

Didn’t bookmark it, but a few weeks back, I saw an article that said greater than 50% of computer infections were no user imposed.

What does that mean exactly? It means the people who write and manage software are doing a pretty good job of staying ahead of the hacker crowd, but,we the users, are become our own worst enemies. Not that we purposely let spyware, malware and viruses in, but we are more easily fooled into doing just that.

The “bad guys” are becoming very good at replicating things that are legitmate, both in look and in a social context, that make us want to click it.

Next hing you know, you’ve got a “ScareWare” problem, which, if you don’t pay the ransom, it begins to dig about your files and, over time, render your PC useless.

What got me to post this? An article in a security news feed I track saying there are a crop of “Browser Updates” showing up on people’s screen, and, we do what we are told “KEEP YOUR COMPUTER UP TO DATE!”

That makes it increasingly difficult to sort the fake updates from the real ones.

Let’s be careful out there and, according to Symantec researcher Parveen Vashishtha know this:

Malware authors are employing innovative social engineering tricks to fool users — it’s as simple as that…”